By Shaun Riebl, MS
Thanksgiving – did you ever think, “What a wonderful holiday…I don’t have to go to work and all I am expected to do is eat!” Most Americans can gain an extra three pounds around this time of year, but don’t fret. By following a few nutritional tips and being aware of some nutritional facts you will not ruin your transition or early season healthy eating habits and will be able to enjoy and trim down this usual 3,500 calorie Thanksgiving meal. Remember, that is only for the one meal, whereas the typical caloric requirement for a healthy adult male is 2000-2500 calories!
Don’t Skip Meals
On Thanksgiving Day do not skip out on any other meals throughout the day because if you arrive hungry you will be more inclined to overindulge. Beforehand try to have a healthy, well balanced meal including fruit, vegetables, and high fiber foods (oatmeal, whole-grain sandwiches, bran cereal, or salad with beans). While mingling do not eat just because it is there; save the calories for foods you really enjoy. Many hors d’oeuvres are high in fat and calories and low in fiber. If you must munch go for the raw vegetable platter and try not to drown any of them in dressing.
Be Critical at the Table
At the table when food is being passed around and you receive a platter of food, rate that food on a scale of one to ten: one being unappealing and ten being your favorite. Be sure to choose foods that you rate nine or ten and then only have one plate. If some of the foods you enjoy are high in fat or calories take a smaller portion; if you do not allow yourself any you will feel deprived. As a result you can end up eating more of other foods which can add up to more calories and fat than if you just had what you desired.
Assess all of the foods and try to take slightly larger portions of dry, steamed vegetables and baked sweet potatoes. Green beans have about 40 calories per cup and contain significant amounts of bone strengthening vitamin K. Sweet potatoes are lush in vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and fiber. Furthermore, go for skinless white meat rather than skinned dark meat and you can save up to 18 grams of fat and 130 calories. Turkey is gushing with B vitamins which are known to assist in the metabolism of food; it facilitates converting food into energy.
If you enjoy alcohol, save those calories for a glass of wine or a cold beer during the meal. A glass of red wine is good for the heart as some studies have shown that it can act as an anticoagulant. What this means is that it will help minimize the artery-clogging effects of a high fat meal and may decrease the risk of heart disease in the long run.
Slow Down and Smell the Turkey
While eating slow down and enjoy every bit; it’s not a race unless you are going to lose you seat on the couch! No matter how much you eat, it takes time for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full. Once done with your plate of food, drink a tall glass of water and gauge how you feel. Remember that you still may eat again later in the day or want some pie for dessert, so save some room in your tummy. While discussing pie, just eat the filling rather than the high-fat crust if you want to save some fat and calories. Also try to go for the pumpkin pie over pecan pie, as it has almost half the fat and calories and contain more vitamins.
In the Kitchen
If you are preparing some of the food for your Thanksgiving feast try some of the tips to make for a healthier experience:
• When mashing potatoes hold the butter and add canned evaporated skim milk, garlic, salt, and chicken broth; no one will notice the difference.
• Sprinkle dill on vegetables, not butter.
• When preparing pumpkin pie use canned evaporated skim milk and brown sugar instead of white because it is more flavorful so you can use less.
• Use light or fat-free whipped toppings on pies
• Bake stuffing in a covered casserole dish rather than in the turkey
• Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter when adding fat…if you must
• Roast the turkey on a rack so the fat drips off of it
• Use a fat separator or refrigerate the pan juices from the turkey before making the gravy; the coolness of the refrigerator will separate the fat and you will be able to remove it prior to assembling the gravy
Remember that Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy friends, family, and food. Try to make healthy choices and do not deprive yourself; anything in moderation is fine. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday and don’t forget that Thanksgiving Day ride!